I went to Paris for the first time five years ago, and I hated it. But I’m trying to work on being a more forgiving person, so I came back and gave Paris another chance. I’m happy I did because this time, it totally pulled out all the stops to win me over.
Even when I wasn’t bowled over by Paris, I could admit that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. And that’s still true even now that I’ve been to 30 other countries and too many cities to count. Paris looks good from every angle, with its characteristic architecture and iconic views and amazing corner cafes. I’ve learned that one of my biggest priorities in a city to live is having a lot of places to sit and write for hours, and Paris is the granddaddy of cafe culture. And it’s Paris, so there is enough music, art, and culture for a lifetime. And even without all that, I can definitely appreciate a place where I can have a wine picnic all afternoon in a lush green park full of flowers and sculptures. I mean, really. Who wouldn’t?
One of my biggest qualms with Paris from my original visit was that I felt unsafe because the city was overrun with gypsies and pickpockets. I felt less of that this time, probably because I didn’t spend as much time doing touristy activities. And if I lived there, I wouldn’t be visiting the Sacre Coeur every weekend. However, this time I felt unsafe for a different reason. After firecrackers set off a mass panicked stampede out of a Euro Cup viewing area, I really got to appreciate the fact that the city lives in fear.
The next day, rowdy football fans were celebrating the France win by yelling and banging inside the metro. I was happy and amused but also really paranoid that some of those crowds might not be yelling from joy. The city is full of police and military and bomb sniffing dogs. And all of it gives me an uneasy feeling. I applaud the people who go about their lives without giving it a second thought, but I don’t know that I could be one of them.
There’s a huge misconception that French people are rude to foreigners. I never got that impression, even on my first visit. But this time, Parisians were downright friendly. From the waiters at the cafes, to sports fans in line for a beer, to the lovely guy that recommended one of his favorite cheeses for our picnic. The people of Paris were exceedingly nice to us this time around. In addition to their demeanor, after spending so much time among homogenous people like Germans and Czechs, it’s also nice to see a little bit of diversity. Parisians come in all shades, which makes me feel more at home. When it comes to dating, I have to admit, French men do nothing for me, but the women of Paris are demure, stylish, and just the right amount of aloof. If I found myself a nice French girl with that olive skin and hazel eyes and teasing smile, I would put a ring on it tomorrow. And I would just spend the rest of my life having coffee with her and shopping for Oxfords and striped tops.
I am so spoiled now about money that I’m going to have to start traveling to third world countries. If I wanted to move to Paris, I would have to find a way to afford 1000-1500 Euro in rent every month. And obviously, consumer goods are also up there in price. I got to Paris with 1000 Czech koruna, which exchanges to about 25 Euro, and I then promptly spent that on lunch. When I have to pay 4 Euro for a bottle of water, I feel personally victimized. You won’t find beer for 1 Euro there; you’re looking at 6 Euro minimum (during Happy Hour!).
All that being said, you get what you pay for. A 22 Euro steak in Paris is a masterpiece for your mouth. Especially since you get to eat it on the cutest street corner you’ve ever laid eyes on. And if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can buy fresh ingredients from the market and have a lunch more delicious than you thought you were capable of making. So really, I’m not going to complain. The French know their food and the money is worth it. I will be dreaming of buttery croissants for the next several weeks.
Both getting in and out of Paris and navigating inside it are ridiculously simple. The Paris Metro is up there with one of my favorites of all time. It is so straightforward, and it goes everywhere. The only downside is that it can get very crowded. And if you’re set on walking, you’re going to have a beautiful walk through countless picturesque neighborhoods. As someone who travels a lot, I need easy access to the airport. Luckily, getting into Paris from the airport is also so easy that it’s almost pleasant. The RoissyBus always seems to be waiting when you need it and can get you to your terminal in 40-60 minutes, depending on traffic. You can also take the RER B train so there is no shortage of options.
One bonus for Paris is that I took French for four years in high school. And though I barely remember anything, if I lived there for a couple of months, I would easily pick up the language. And let’s face it, French is better than Czech.
Total Livability Score 6/10
Paris would definitely be high up there on my list of places I want to live. But I can’t live anywhere I don’t feel totally safe to be in crowds, at concerts, or on the Metro. And as much as I hate to admit it, the current threat as general jumpiness is a little too unnerving for me.